The MH-2 is a telepresence robot like no other we have seen, and believe us, we’ve seen our share of weird robots. This tiny humanoid figure is always there for you, perching on your shoulder, ready to be remotely inhabited by your friends. Conceived by the researchers at Yamagata University in Japan, MH-2 is designed to imitate human behavior accurately enough for you to feel like your friend is actually there with you.

The truth, however, is that this friend of yours is back at home, in the living room, making wild gestures in front of some sort of a motion capture set-up and watching the video captured in real time by the MH-2. Meanwhile, the robot is busy copying all these movements, flailing its limbs around and acting as a physical beacon of your friend’s engagement in the situation. The robot's expressive capabilities are impressive, with the arms having seven degrees of freedom (DoF), while the head has three DoF, and the body has two, plus one more dedicated to imitating breathing movements.

Although both the friend and the robot are guaranteed quite a workout, it’s you who needs to do most of the heavy lifting. To make sure your Miniature Humanoid’s movements are smooth, as many as 22 bulky actuators are required. You need to carry the servomotors in your backpack so that they can pull the strings attached to the robot's joints, causing it to move.

The researchers are already at work trying to make the whole package a little smaller and more convenient, but obviously the MH-2 has never been about convenience in the first place. It’s not a production prototype. It's a bold experiment in human-robot relations.

Source: Yamagata University via IEEE Spectrum